Mycoheterotrophs - Those Sneaky Sum*******

— feeling evolution


So, we all know that fungi are fungi because, among other things, they do not have chlorophyll. That is why they have to depend on others for food. It might not be an honest living but at least, they are upfront about it. Some fungi even offer benefits to the plants they take food from.

There are, however, plants that are even bigger swindlers than fungi could ever be! They are called  mycoheterotrophs but calling them fungus-robbers would be right as well! When a fungus forms an association with say, a tree, that is beneficial to both, these robbers will butt in. Tapping into the fungal network, they steal the sugars that the fungus is getting from its partner. How unfair is that?


Their rap sheet does not end here, though. Another one of their crimes is how pretty they look, all the while, stealing from the fungi right under their mycelia! Don't believe me? Look at this guy:


You can find it here


If the one above is Candy Cane, the next one is Candystick. Not only does it "hack", it does so anonymously, going so far as to imitate the fungus by producing hyphae (fungal tissue) but it is also choosy about the fungus it robs. The good news is that since it is so specific, you can bet on finding Matsutake mushrooms wherever Candystick dwells.




the criminal


the very Innocent looking Indian-pipe


And this one, the Snowplant, described by John Muir in quite poetic terms:


"red, fleshy and watery and looks like a gigantic asparagus shoot. Soon after the snow is off the ground it rises through the dead needles and humus in the pine and fir woods like a bright glowing pillar of fire."




"Nevertheless, it is a singularly cold and unsympathetic plant. Everybody admires it as a wonderful curiosity, but nobody loves it as lilies, violets, roses, daisies are loved. Without fragrance, it stands beneath the pines and firs lonely and silent, as if unacquainted with any other plant in the world; never moving in the wildest storms; rigid as if lifeless, though covered with beautiful rosy flowers."


Found here




The fairy lantern produces miniscule glistening orange flowers that look as if  "a fairy had set down her lantern on the forest duff for a moment." Its perianth is urceolate - a beautiful word that means urn-shaped. Outer perianth segments have bristles that are the right size for fairy hands! This is one thief that cannot completely charm the pants off of you since it smells like decaying fish.


The flowers are too small too be charming anyway!



#BPotD #Botany